17-year-old Rafael Nadal was one of the players to watch in early 2004, looking good to improve on his results from the previous season and reaching the first ATP final in Auckland. The young Spaniard scored two Australian Open wins and made a remarkable Davis Cup debut against Radek Stepanek on an indoor court. Rafa beat no. 1, Roger Federer, in Miami, hoping for a similar run on his beloved clay in April and May, but he skipped the clay tour after injuring his ankle in Estoril. Nadal returned to action in July and became ATP champion in Sopot in August for a big boost. Nadal had to pass the Dutch Davis Cup tie, but returned for the semi-final match against France. The teenager defeated Arnaud Clement in straight sets and got a chance to play the United States in Seville in the December final. In front of 25,000 local fans, Rafa replaced Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second confrontation. He became the youngest player with a victory in the Davis Cup final after beating No. 2 Andy Roddick 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 in three hours and 38. minutes of a grueling battle. Bob and Mike Bryan kept the United States in contention after their doubles triumph over Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo. Still, Carlos Moyá beat Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 to deliver Spain’s third point and deliver his country’s second Davis Cup trophy in four years. After the victory, Nadal was delighted with the way he and his teammates performed, calling it the most significant title of his career and praising his colleagues who gave their best in front of the partisan crowd in Seville.
Mischa Zverev on Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic produced one of his finest-ever Roland Garros performances to inflict a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 defeat on 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals on Friday. Against that background, Mischa Zverev and Ana Ivanovic gave their thoughts on the titanic semifinal. “It was amazing and hard to describe because everyone saw them play well and every time they start over you think it’s impossible, but they still produce a quality of play from another planet,” Zverev said on Eurosport. “The third set had its ups and downs. Sometimes it was like a computer game because no matter where they hit the ball, the other was already there to receive the ball. It seems impossible to put winning shots, they don’t make unforced errors, and finally one of the two manages to make the difference. It’s just unthinkable the way they played,” he added. “It could have turned the other way. But again, there were hardly any unforced errors. Both tried hard shots and got it right. So you can’t say Rafael Nadal didn’t do the right thing, it was just an amazing tennis match. Novak was just too good towards the end.”